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By Dr. Mercola
Thanksgiving — celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday of November — is perhaps one of the most cherished of American holidays; it's a time when family and friends gather over ample amounts of food and give thanks for the blessings in life, including each other. As explained by University of California psychology professor Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts on gratitude and author of several books on the topic, gratitude involves two key components:1
- It's “an affirmation of goodness;” when you feel gratitude, you affirm that you live in a benevolent world
- It's a recognition that the source of this goodness comes from outside of yourself; that other people (or higher powers, if you prefer) have provided you with “gifts” that improve your life in some way
An Attitude of Gratitude Fosters Health and Happiness
The practice of openly sharing what we're grateful for is by many accounts one of the healthiest aspects of our annual Thanksgiving festivity. According to psychologists, it's a ritual that fosters both happiness and health. It's unfortunate that most people reserve this gratitude ritual for Thanksgiving Day only. While giving thanks once a year is beneficial, doing it more often could be life changing.2 At least that's what science suggests.
Studies have actually shown that the psychological state of gratitude has beneficial implications for every major organ system in your body.3 So, if you're serious about your well-being you'd be wise to increase the frequency at which you feel and express gratitude. Adopting the ritual of saying grace at every meal, for example, is a great way to flex your gratitude muscle on a daily basis,4 and will also foster a deeper connection to your food.
When you reflect on all the things that went into its creation, from the sowing of the seed, to the harvest and the cooking, you'll realize just how much work — by both nature and man — went into creating the meal before you that will now provide you with nourishment. Considering a breakdown anywhere along that chain would result in scarcity and hunger, there's a lot to be thankful for in each plate of food.
The First Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is celebrated in remembrance of the first recorded feast between the British pilgrims and Native Americans in Plymouth. The year was 1621, and the pilgrims had just reaped their first successful harvest in the New World. While the history of this first Thanksgiving celebration is sketchy, eyewitness accounts claim:5
- The feast was attended by at least 50 English pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians, the latter of which walked for two days to attend. In addition to food, marksmanship games and running races were also enjoyed.
- The celebration lasted three days.
- Venison was the highlight of the meal, brought by the Wampanoag tribesmen. Other meal selections included fish and fowls (wild turkeys, ducks and geese).
At the time, the get-together was not called…
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